It's Mickey Mouse research 1

August 31, 2007

The TaxPayers' Alliance ("V'cs attack tax-cut lobby's 'Mickey Mouse' criticisms", August 24) has simply selected broad keywords, such as food, leisure, tourism and equine - billion-pound industries in the UK - and decided arbitrarily whether courses with these words in their title constitute a "real" academic discipline.

The TPA report does not even define "academic". Nor does it appear to be able to distinguish between higher national diplomas, foundation degrees (referred to as a "foundation courses" in the report) and honours degrees. The first two are vocational by design and normally of two years' duration and funding, contrary to the report's assumed three years in calculating its £40 million cost to taxpayers. Such courses blend academic rigour - the ability to analyse and think conceptually and logically - with vocational applications in order to arrive at practical solutions.

Of the eight alleged "non-courses" at Harper Adams University College, only two are taught here and six are delivered through two collaborating further education colleges. Both of these are Centres of Excellence in Vocational Education in their own right within the subject areas identified in the TPA report.

We validate and stand by the academic rigour and vocational quality of them all, and our last Quality Assurance Agency report expressed complete confidence in our academic standards.

Perhaps the ultimate arbiters of the value of courses at Harper Adams University College, both academically and practically, are our students: we ranked seventh in the 2006 student satisfaction survey and our graduate employment rate last year was 98.3 per cent. Clearly, employers value the quality of our graduates and their ability to think and do.

How much did the taxpayer pay for this superficial piece of research, which has added little to understanding and rather more to ill-informed prejudice?

Wynne Jones
Principal, Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire

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